I want to start off by saying this recipe is heavily inspired by the amazing folks over at Cult of Paint, specifically Henry’s tutorial on their YouTube channel for his own Dark Angels Heresy army. I’d highly recommend heading over to their channel after giving this a read to check out some of the fantastic free video tutorials the’ve got, as well as their Patreon for some excellent deep dives into their painting processes.
Prime your miniature with your choice of dark primer. I use Vallejo’s German Panzer Grey through an airbrush, but any dark/neutral grey or black primer will work; airbrushed or rattlecan.
That’s it. That’s the step. Just black all over.
Thin it down about 1:1 with airbrush thinner though, and cover with 2-3 thin coats.
If you’re not sure what the term “Zenithal Highlighting” means, a quick Google search is your best friend here. It’s pretty much a way to simply pre-shade/-highlight your model, and help give you a sense of direction for your light source.
For this step, my colour of choice is Tamiya Flat White heavily thinned with Tamiya Acrylic Thinner , about 6:1 thinner to paint. It’s important to only use Tamiya’s acrylic thinner when thinning their paints, and to clean your airbrush immediately after using them, as they can dry rock hard in there. To clean, use either isopropyl alcohol or the Tamiya thinner you’ve already been using.
Using Tamiya Flat White through an airbrush gives fantastically smooth results with minimal effort, and is definitely the best white I’ve found for getting bright highlights while keeping a really nice gradient.
If you’re a bit hesitant to use Tamiya acrylics because you have to use a completely different thinner and the need to clean your brush after using, you can absolutely do this with whichever white you like to use, including from a rattlecan if you don’t have an airbrush!
I’ve used Vallejo white primer to zenithal, and I’ve got to say I really like the results, especially with the time it saves when cleaning. One downside though is that it doesn’t seem to get as bright as the Tamiya paint over dark colours, which is what we want here for a nice stark contrast between light and dark while keeping a smooth gradient. I’ll definitely be using it again, but unless I find a way to get it brighter, probably not for this project.
This step is how we get a nice depth to our black armour, following on from the zenithal highlight.
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